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Former Canadian national team second baseman Stubby Clapp was hitting coach for the single-A Lexington Legends this past season before serving as hitting instructor for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League. ((Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) )

Stubby Clapp, one of the most popular and scrappiest Canadian athletes of all time, is embarking on a new baseball challenge.

The Houston Astros have promoted the longtime national team second baseman to manager of the short-season single-A Tri-City ValleyCats.

Clapp, 37, was hitting coach for the single-A Lexington Legends this past season before serving as hitting instructor for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League.

The Windsor, Ont., native, whose real name is Richard Keith Clapp, previously spent two years as a coach with the Rookie League Greeneville Astros.

It was during his time in Lexington, Ky., that Houston denied Clapp permission to compete at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. But the Astros reversed their decision after Clapp approached management with a shortened timetable for his absence in hopes they would reconsider.

Clapp, who retired as a full-time player in 2007, might not have been healthy enough to play in China after stretching ligaments in his left knee injury when he collided with a German catcher in Canada's last Olympic qualifying game in March 2008.

He also represented Canada at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic after making a name for himself as a member of the 1999 bronze medal-winning team at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg.

During round-robin play in Winnipeg, the underdog Canadians faced the more experienced and talented American team. Clapp walked to home plate with the bases loaded in the 11th inning and the score tied 6-6.

More than cross-border bragging rights were on the line when Clapp blooped a single that dropped between the shortstop and left-fielder to give Canada the unexpected win.

The hit turned Clapp, known for his grit, hustle and trademark back flip, into a Canadian cult hero, and he was a media darling among journalists.

Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 36th round of the '96 amateur draft, Clapp played 23 games in 2001 after six seasons as a utility player in the minor leagues. He played 11 years in the minors before moving to the coaching ranks.